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CDC Changes COVID-19 Isolation Rules for Health Care Workers


The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) reduced the isolation time for health care workers who contract or were exposed to COVID-19. Hospitals have been bracing for the winter surge, and as a result, have already reduced isolation time for their staff.

This move comes as the White House has been criticized about staffing shortages amid another round of increased infections in the United States brought on by the latest COVID variant, Omicron. Moreover, workers missing more than a week’s wages could make people avoid being tested, which is dangerous.

In response, the CDC announced it had halved the isolation time from 10 days to five due to concerns about the COVID variant Omicron’s ability to move between people. Even though it appears to be milder, it is extremely contagious, and that can create a staffing issue for health care institutions.

Under the new contingency plan, which can be instituted if there is a staffing shortage, there is no work restriction for workers who had higher-risk exposure if they are “boosted” or have had all required COVID-19 vaccinations including the booster dose. However, infected workers, no matter the level of vaccination (boosted, vaccinated, or unvaccinated), may return to work after five days with/without a negative test result or not exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms.

Courtesy of Jakayla Toney (Unsplash CC0)

Higher-risk exposure happens when a worker is wearing a facemask rather than a respirator and if the patient is not also wearing a facemask or cloth mask.

These guidelines apply to every health care facility that is directly involved with patient care, including hospitals, assisted living facilities, nursing homes, dental offices, and other medical organizations.

Health care personnel includes all paid and unpaid individuals serving in settings with the potential for direct or indirect exposure to patients or infectious materials.

The updated recommendations do not apply to the public; the CDC continues to recommend a 10-day isolation period for those infected with COVID-19.

Written by Cathy Milne-Ware


The New York Times: C.D.C. Shortens Covid Isolation Period for Health Care Workers; by Azeen Ghorayshi and Reed Abelson
CDC: Interim Guidance for Managing Healthcare Personnel with SARS-CoV-2 Infection or Exposure to SARS-CoV-2
Daily Mail: Isolation for people who get COVID should be halved to FIVE DAYS to encourage people fearful of missing work to get tested, experts say – as Fauci says White House IS considering shortening quarantine to save the economy; by Janon Fisher and Michelle Thompson

Featured and Top Image by Kyle Jahner Courtesy of Medill DC’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Top Image Courtesy of Jakayla Toney’s Unsplash Page – Creative Commons License


Cathrine Osborne, DM

Infectious Disease Physician

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